Housing, Poverty, and the Law

Posted: 11 Nov 2015

See all articles by Matthew Desmond

Matthew Desmond

Harvard University - Department of Sociology

Monica C. Bell

Yale University - Law School

Date Written: November 2015


Throughout much of the late twentieth century, social scientists and legal scholars focused considerable attention on low-income housing and landlord-tenant law. In recent years, however, interest in housing has waned, leaving many questions fundamental to the poverty debate unanswered. This article calls for a renewed focus on housing, law, and poverty, with particular attention to the housing sector where most low-income families live, unassisted: the private rental market. Surveying social-scientific research, legal analysis, and case history on affordability, access, housing conditions, forced displacement, and homelessness, this article shows how housing plays a central, crucial role in the lives of poor Americans. The poor have been central to the development of housing law, and the law itself has done much to mitigate and aggravate their poverty.

Suggested Citation

Desmond, Matthew and Bell, Monica C., Housing, Poverty, and the Law (November 2015). Annual Review of Law and Social Science, Vol. 11, pp. 15-35, 2015, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2688988 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1146/annurev-lawsocsci-120814-121623

Matthew Desmond (Contact Author)

Harvard University - Department of Sociology ( email )

33 Kirkland Street
William James Hall, Sixth Floor
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Monica C. Bell

Yale University - Law School ( email )

P.O. Box 208215
New Haven, CT 06520-8215
United States

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics